Drumstick Lipstick, explained!

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
June 16 2005 5:34 PM

Drumstick Lipstick, Explained!

A decades-long mystery is solved.

Click image to explain.

Just in time for Bloomsday comes the solution to the only textual riddle in Cole Porter's "You're the Top" that I was unable to solve last week. Multiple readers, acting independently, managed to unearth two advertisements that appeared in the New York Times in 1934. One, which appeared on March 8, was for a new product called Drumstick face powder, which "has made new recruits to add to those who already enlist our bath powder and Drumstick lipstick." Another, which appeared on May 22, was for another new product, the Drumstick compact: "Its arrival is celebrated by smart women who will instantly invite it to join the Drumstick lipstick in their handbags." Drumstick lipstick, then, was a particular brand of lipstick. The manufacturer was Charbert, a French cosmetics firm.

Interestingly, both ads allude to a Broadway musical, but the musical isn't Anything Goes, which introduced "You're the Top" that same year. It's the Gershwin musical, Of Thee I Sing.

Advertisement

In addition to solving this mystery, readers offered a few additional insights about "You're the Top":

In my explication of

You're the boats that glide
On the sleepy Zuider Zee
You're a Nathan panning
You're Bishop Manning,
You're broccoli!

I footnoted "Zuider Zee," "Nathan panning," and "Bishop Manning," but assumed "broccoli" to be self-explanatory. But reader Andrew Steen chides me gently for failing to observe that broccoli would have been something of a novelty in 1934. The vegetable, of course, has been around for thousands of years, but in the United States it's been farmed commercially only since the 1920s, and the first advertising campaign on its behalf didn't occur until 1929—and even then, the ads were in Italian. So, in 1934, broccoli represented the culinary cutting edge, sort of like ramps do today.

In my explication of "next year’s taxes" as a superlative, I offered, tentatively, that next year's taxes were better than this year's taxes because one didn't have to pay them until next year. But reader R.J. Schoettle directs me to this chart from the Tax Foundation, which documents how President Roosevelt, that famous traitor to his class, raised marginal tax rates on higher incomes through the 1930s. In 1934, "next year's taxes" would have been the taxes you were to pay in 1935 on income earned in 1934. If your income was $90,000, then "this year's taxes" (on income earned in 1933) would be paid at a marginal rate of 51 percent, while "next year's taxes" (on income earned in 1934) would rise to a marginal rate of 54 percent. From the point of view of the payer, "next year's taxes" would not be a superlative. Who wants to pay more taxes? But as a sheer numerical phenomenon, "next year's taxes" would be impressively large compared to "this year's taxes."

In re "You're Mussolini, you're Mrs. Sweeney," the tasteless alternative lyric to "You're an O'Neill drama/ You're Whistler's mama," the Cole Porter estate informs me that it was penned by P.G. Wodehouse—who, with Guy Bolton, wrote an early draft of the Anything Goes script—for the London production. This provides additional evidence that Wodehouse, indisputably a comic genius, was pretty dim when it came to international politics (the primary evidence being his genial Berlin broadcasts while he was held prisoner by the Nazis). Having just last autumn read Robert McCrum's superb Wodehouse biography, I ought to have remembered this.

In my examination of

You're the top!
You're an Arrow collar,
You're the top!
You're a Coolidge dollar

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 22 2014 2:27 PM Facebook Made $595 Million in the U.K. Last Year. It Paid $0 in Taxes
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 22 2014 1:01 PM The Surprisingly Xenophobic Origins of Wonder Bread
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 2:59 PM Netizen Report: Twitter Users Under Fire in Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.